Tuesday, April 5, 2005
STAFF REPORTER and in Taipei
The Vatican is prepared to sever its ties with Taiwan in exchange for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Beijing, the head of the Hong Kong diocese said last night.
But Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said there was no way the Vatican would commit itself to this position without first having talks with Beijing on the subject.
Speaking after a Requiem Mass in Hong Kong to mourn the late Pope John Paul II, Bishop Zen’s dropped a clear hint to Taiwan that another diplomatic blow was looming on the horizon. The Vatican is the island’s only ally in Europe.
“The Holy See has been thinking of giving up Taiwan. This is a difficult [decision], but it has decided to do it,” he said. “There is, however, no way that [it would] do so before negotiations. We have got to start the negotiation before talking about what we can give.”
Bishop Zen said the Vatican had never in history unilaterally cut diplomatic ties with any of its allies.
“It is a difficult [decision]. But certainly the Holy See has decided to do so,” he said.
“But the bishop in Taiwan understands this. If the Holy See does not establish [diplomatic] ties with [mainland] China, Catholics there will not have real freedom.”
Beijing says Vatican must sever ties with Taiwan and promise not to interfere in the mainland’s internal affairs, including religious affairs, before the two sides can normalise diplomatic ties, broken since 1951.
On the second condition, Bishop Zen said the Vatican’s wish to appoint bishops in the future mainland diocese would not constitute interference in China’s affairs, noting that the practice occurred with other sovereign states.
Taiwan said relations with the Vatican would continue.
“Relations between the Holy See and Taiwan will remain unchanged and the Foreign Ministry will continue to push for mutual visits by the Vatican and Taiwanese leaders to strengthen bilateral understanding and consolidate relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Lu Ching-lung said yesterday.
He was responding to warnings by opposition legislators that the Vatican may switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing after the death of the anti-communist Pope.
JACKY HSU – South China Morning Post
Tuesday, April 5, 2005